There is growing international consensus that young people need to develop a broader range of knowledge, skills, mindsets and behaviours to help them thrive in the face of constant change.
Schools and colleges play an important role in this mission. Relationships between educational institutions and their local communities are ever more important if we hope to truly prepare young people for success.
Community Connected Learning (CCL) is a form of experiential learning where students collaborate to address societal challenges as part of their broader education. Drawing on a rich tradition of youth social action and service learning, students develop youth voice and leadership skills, supporting their peers and building a deep sense of agency and purpose to drive their learning and benefit the world around them.
Community Connected Learning places pupils in the context of the wider community and creates opportunities for them to use their knowledge, creativity, talents and resources to explore pressing societal issues and create project ideas based on their personal values and interests, vocational aspirations, and concerns for the environment in which they live. Teachers help pupils turn initial ideas into practical projects, while connecting their learning back to the curriculum, and students work in partnership with local stakeholders to design creative solutions.
The aim is for young people to apply what they are learning in the classroom to their lives beyond school, and inversely, finding ways to connect their personal values and interests to their experience of education. This gives young people real opportunities to develop a sense of agency and purpose – the will and skill to positively influence their own lives and the world around them – and contribute to shaping a fairer, more equal, and caring world.
Studies show that CCL can help to empower young people with the knowledge, skills, mindsets, and behaviours to actively participate in society and, most importantly, to realise their capacity to play a positive and valued role in community change. It can also help address issues of motivation and relevance, while building learner agency over time.
Community Connected Learning provides an opportunity to:
- Enrich existing curriculum content by giving a sense of purpose and connectivity to academic subjects.
- Deepen pupils’ understanding of and connection to the world around them while offering them the tools to change it for the better.
- Develop skills like empathy, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, complex problem-solving, and community leadership.
- Activate student voice and agency by connecting content standards to social impact projects.
- Foster a positive school culture based on empathy, belonging, participation and student agency.